Chris Backhouse, Patrick Schryburt and Tom Clements of the Lake Country Fire Department participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Big Virtual Climb fundraiser Saturday, June 13, 2020. The event had moved online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which cancelled the March 8, 2020, in-person event scheduled in Seattle, Wash. (District of Lake Country)

Chris Backhouse, Patrick Schryburt and Tom Clements of the Lake Country Fire Department participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Big Virtual Climb fundraiser Saturday, June 13, 2020. The event had moved online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which cancelled the March 8, 2020, in-person event scheduled in Seattle, Wash. (District of Lake Country)

Lake Country firefighters climb mountain in lieu of stairs

International fundraiser goes online in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Lake Country firefighters were unable to attend the annual stair climb event in person in Seattle, but the novel coronavirus couldn’t stop a few members from donning their gear and taking the steps anyway.

More than 2,000 firefighters from the United States and Canada were slated to climb to the top of the Columbia Centre in Seattle, Wash., on March 8, but the novel coronavirus forced organizers to think outside of the box and create a virtual backup plan.

Instead, the Big Virtual Climb challenged firefighters to tackle 61-storey climb or around 1,762 steps — equivalent to climbing the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco — on June 13.

Three local firefighters, Chris Backhouse, Patrick Schryburt and Tom Clements, trained for several months before taking to the base of Mt. Baldy and ensured a congratulatory fist bump concluded the climb at the peak.

“As we have nothing of that height in our area,” Backhouse told the District of Lake Country of the 61-storey climb, “we chose to do a hill climb instead, using Mt. Baldy as it is fairly similar in height and a steady, stair-like climb.”

“Not all stair climb events are done using full SCBA and breathing tank air, but as our original event does, we followed through with the full gear,” he said.

The gear, Backhouse said, weighs between 50-60 pounds in total.

Backhouse said he and his colleagues prepared by using a stair climber and circuit training at the fire hall.

In a trip to Vancouver, Backhouse said he took advantage of the hotel’s 30 or so floors to practice in full gear.

The event, which was originally to take place in Seattle, Wash., was swapped to a virtual climb in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the required physical distancing.

The LLS Firefighter Stair Climb is an international fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Backhouse said although he’s disappointed the original event was cancelled due to the virus, he is looking forward to the next one.

“I’ve got to do it now.”

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